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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

See You In September

Monday was the last day of school.

There were times in the year when I never thought it would come, and even other times when I realized it was all coming too soon. Sure in many ways I would be glad to be rid of some of the behaviors. But for everything I wouldn't miss, there would be something else I would. I know it sounds silly, but you really do become attached to each and every child after spending 181 days of your life (not counting absences or weekends, when you're not there, albeit still concerned) about their welfare.

The last few days were a bittersweet blur. First of all, I can't even begin to tell you how many yearbooks I must have signed of graduating fourth graders who I've never met before in my life. As for my class,I feel like I didn't get the chance to even give every child a proper goodbye, not that some of them care, but I do. I was too busy reviewing cum folders with a colleague, while they were too busy licking the frosting off of cupcakes. One of my faves was also absent on the last day and it was surprising, something must be up. I told each of them to make sure to come and visit me because they will only be right down the hall, and I'm sure some of them would. Unfortunately out of the 16 children I had in my clas by the end of the year, one of them will be repeating 3rd grade again. Like I said, it's been a year full of milestones and setbacks.

Already plans for next year are in the works. The other day I got a phone call concerning recruitment. Afterschool clubs, which are usually in abundance, are being cut next year. The only thing that is for certain is that we will be have a third grade after school math and reading, mandatory 4 day program. It's an extra hour of school for the kids, but it's also an extra hour of pay for the teachers.

Before you start thinking it is some kind of "honor" that they are recruiting me, let me explain. For one thing, I'm non-tenured so I can't really say no. Also, it behooves them to have 3rd and 4th grade instructors because these clubs are preparing the kids for the NJ ASK test. We had it this year and each child had 2 extra hours a week of math instruction.

Then the NJ ASK scores came back. Now I think I understand the whole "don't ask, don't tell" policy a little better.

At first when I saw the scores of my students I was a little disappointed. Disappointed, but not surprised. The students I had this year were, on the whole, pretty low. They had incredible amount of trouble retaining new information, and that was the kids who tried! Others didn't do great all year, but not because of lack of ability, but for lack of caring, which is a real shame to start that sort've attitude so early in their academic career.

Then a few people who saw my scores and said that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. For one thing, I couldn't turn water into wine and for another, it was my first year so things to improve upon were to be expected. My math specialist saw the scores and she was impressed since she knows my group personally. I only had one child make it, by the skin of her teeth, to the advanced proficient level. The rest fell between proficiency and partial proficieny. I don't think anyone scored higher in my class on reading and writing than math.

Which brings me back to the afterschool club. Apparently my class wasn't the only class that followed this trend and so instead of intense training in math, they are going to do it in both subjects. Personally I think this is a no brainer. If you concentrate on one area more you will surely see results. It's like exercising and only working on your abs. Not to mention the fact that I work in a district where English is NOT the first language spoken at home for many. So here you have children who already have a disadvantage and you expect them to score well without additional assistance? So at least it seems they are getting something right in adding this program. However, I don't think any of us know for sure yet how to achieve better results without the help (or sometimes understanding) of the parents at home. Even the ones who want to help often can't and those who can often don't. Once again, a catch 22.

And what about next year's students? Well, I was really hoping they would give us next year's class lists as promised, but they didn't. So much for labeling and getting ahead! Although I did hear of about 4 kids that are coming to me, and so far they seem ok from what I'm hearing, (my first question always is, are they good?) but it's still to early to be overly confident about it all. And don't forget, with only a year in, I'm still the new kid on the block.



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